Mehlville school board retreat scheduled Saturday

Board members to evaluate progress on last year’s goals

By BURKE WASSON

Faced with the tasks of forming 2008-2009 goals as well as discussing whether to place two ballot issues before voters in November, the Mehlville Board of Education will meet this weekend at its annual retreat.

The retreat is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Inc.’s downtown headquarters, 501 N. Broadway.

Superintendent Terry Noble said much of the retreat’s discussion will revolve around assessing his and the board’s goals from the past school year to determine whether many of those goals should stick for the 2008-2009 academic year

“We’ll be spending much of our time in the morning just reviewing our programs and services and talking about this past year,” Noble said. “… We may get into a little bit of what our board goals and superintendent goals were and evaluate them from the past year and see how we did.

“Then, in the afternoon, we’ll come back to the goals later and talk about do we want to add to these or take away and so forth.”

As discussed last year, Noble’s primary goals for the past school year were:

• Create a platform for accelerating student achievement that builds upon the work of the previous administration.

• Ensure effective future district governance through positive and productive board-superintendent relations.

• Establish public trust and confidence through open, honest communication and positive relationships among stakeholder groups.

• Ensure effective management of district resources.

The Board of Education’s main goals for the 2007-2008 school year were:

• Enable students to achieve at the highest level possible.

• Improve school and community relations.

• Advocate for public education at the local, state and national level.

• Meet requirements and achieve recognition from the Missouri School Boards Asso-ciation, or MSBA, for outstanding performance.

• Ensure fiscal responsibility in the management of district resources.

Besides assessing last year’s goals, the board is scheduled to discuss enhancing a college-prep or advanced-learning curriculum for all high-school students.

“A big part of our discussion in the afternoon will center around offering an advanced curriculum or college prep,” Noble said. “… Every class would be taught at the advanced level. And it’s individualized in a way in which there are supports in place for those who need more help to be able to achieve at a satisfactory level in an advanced course. So that makes sense. And you could also individualize the grading system for them. We’re going to be doing some brainstorming and talking about what we can do to close the achievement gap to prepare our students for college or for a high-paying career. We’re trying to raise our standards. This would include trying to get our ACT scores up as well. Just raising the bar.”

Noble added that the implementation of an advanced curriculum for high-school students would prevent the tendency for high-school seniors to become complacent.

“Just speaking from a personal perspective, a lot of times what happens in high school is when kids get to their senior year, they tend to coast a little bit,” Noble said. “If we teach every course at an advanced level, that can’t happen.”

The Board of Education also will discuss methods of funding improvements recommended through the district’s yearlong public-engagement program, COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools.

Board members on Saturday will have the benefit of studying a telephone survey of district residents. That survey recently was completed by consulting firm UNICOM•ARC. UNICOM associate Jennifer Rolwes Volk, who has assisted the Communications Department since last year, said the firm’s surveys are done at random through an “outside phone bank.”

“It’s all a telephone survey, and we typically do them out of an outside phone bank,” Volk said. “I’m not sure what all the numbers are as far as how many they’re going for. But it’s all randomized. So they pull the numbers and they call until they get a certain number of completed responses.”

Noble emphasized that the survey results are critical in determining how board members will proceed with the November ballot and hopes that the board can make that decision when it meets July 31.

“We’ve had over a yearlong process, and now is the time to make that decision,” Noble said. “And the board is going to carefully weigh all the factors before they make a decision, including the survey information, which is going to be critical.”

One proposed ballot measure would transfer 31 cents from the district’s debt-service fund to the operating fund. The transfer would generate roughly $5.7 million annually. Mehlville’s overall tax rate would not increase, but the transfer would extend the district’s bonded indebtedness by 15 years.

A second proposed ballot measure would be a 37-cent tax-rate increase to help fund the long-range plan that incorporates suggestions from those who participated in the community-engagement sessions. The proposed 37-cent tax-rate increase would restore the district’s tax rate to its 2006 level as the district’s total tax rate per $100 of assessed valuation would jump to roughly $3.64 from $3.27. A 37-cent tax-rate increase for an owner of a $200,000 home would result in an additional cost of $140.60 per year or $11.71 per month.

As proposed, the 37-cent tax-rate increase would be the first of four phases of elections to fund the long-range plan. The district also would ask voters in November elections in 2010, 2012 and 2014 to maintain the district’s operating levy by waiving the district’s estimated 8-cent tax-levy rollback in each of those years.

Noble said until he has fully studied the survey results and heard from board members at Saturday’s retreat, he would refrain from stating his opinion on what the board should place on the Nov. 4 ballot.

“The purpose of our retreat is for me to have a dialogue with our board and have everybody together in the same room,” he said. “And at that time, I would definitely offer my thoughts as to where I think we ought to go. But I would rather reserve that for the time of the meeting after everyone’s had a chance to weigh in. I wouldn’t want to come in and say: ‘ Here’s what I think’ without hearing what they think. What I hope happens is they’re going to have an open discussion about it and they’re going to turn to me and they’re going to say: ‘Terry, what do you think?’ … They may say some things that would impact my opinion.”